what is wrong with SAP TechEd Demo Jam 2009?

Let me start off with a little made-up story :

Imagine for a moment you are a car mechanic. You know your stuff and so do your colleagues at the garage where you work. Said garage specializes in selling, repairing, checking and tuning cars manufactured by company XXL. All the staff at the garage love XXL cars and you all strive to pass that passion on to your customers.

Now XXL is very keen to keep all garage mechanics up to speed with their latest cars, products and developments. It therefore holds a big training session every year for them. Part of this training session is an open competition in which teams can show how far they can take XXL’s cars in terms of design, performance and appeal.

You and your colleagues really want to show what you’re made of and together you submit what you think is a great idea for the competition. However it doesn’t convince the preliminary jury and a few weeks after submission you’re being told that you have not been picked for the final at XXL’s next annual training session.

“Never mind.”, everyone at the garage says. Everyone suspects the other entries to be strong with brilliant ideas from other teams. After all, XXL products are great and spur the imagination! So why shouldn’t other teams come up with even better entries for the competition?

Shortly before the annual training session XXL announces the teams that have been picked for the competition final. It turns out that the majority of finalists actually consist of XXL staff !

You and your colleagues are a little disgruntled about this as XXL staff has not only much better access to original XXL spare parts, but can also speak exclusively to XXL’s engineers and therefore can quickly tap into a resource pool that is at the core of each of XXL’s products! Completely unmatched to what you and your colleagues have at your disposal.

Packed Demo Jam crowd at SAP TechEd 07 Las Vegas

Packed Demo Jam crowd at SAP TechEd '07 Las Vegas

In case you’ve seen the line-up of the next SAP TechEd 2009 Demo Jam competition the above may sound familiar to you. In Phoenix this year, SAP’s Demo Jam hosts 4 out of 7 entries from SAP themselves !

Furthermore your trained eye might also have observed that another Demo Jam entry is from Sybase, presenting an entry called “Mobilizing SAP CRM and Workflow on iPhone”, which sounds very much like what said company advertises under the name “iAnywhere”. Whilst this surely is a great product: sales pitches are not allowed during Demo Jam and therefore this is an obvious violation against Demo Jam rules.

Hang on! Now, isn’t Demo Jam not just a little bit of beer-inspired Tuesday night clapping fun? Does this all REALLY matter? Am I blowing this out of proportion? Unfortunately not! Demo Jam can mean big business to some. A past winner even mentioned a pickup in business of 500% after Demo Jam victory.

There have always been home-grown SAP contributions to Demo Jam in the past, but this year’s SAP landslide is a bit much. There should be no deterrent for SAP’s own staff to take center stage, but 4 out of 7 entries appears too much to me.

Doesn’t Demo Jam not just become yet another “pat on the shoulder” exercise if there’s more or less only SAP or partners presenting their own products? And above this, wouldn’t it be much cooler for SAP to see how their customers and partners want to take the products further or use them?

Maybe the latter would even reveal where SAP’s products should really go.